Over the last twenty years, Elaine Pagels has consistently been one of the most interesting and thought-provoking writers on the diversity within early Christianity. She's at her stimulating best with this work, which is basically a history of how Genesis 1 - 3 was interpreted in the changing cultural and political circumstances of the first four centuries or so of the church. What emerges, perhaps most strongly in the last two chapters, is a fascinating picture of diverse, even competing, interpretations. Out of this ferment, one particular viewpoint - that of Augustine - comes to predominate, infused with pessimism about human nature and society, and gloomy as to the prospects for human willpower overcoming 'sin'. Against this view, Pagels sets more optimistic voices. While clearly not unsympathetic to the explanatory and psychological power of Augustine's ideas, the author makes a very clear and compelling case for recovering important insights from the thinking of maligned or forgotten figures such as Pelagius and Julian of Eclanum - the latter worthy of attention not least for his views on the positive value of the natural world. A really clear and engaging read, and a fascinating study in the politics of biblical interpretation.